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Canadian Agriculture at a Glance Teacher's Kit > Lesson plans

Lesson: They're tilling that field behind the mall

View the article (PDF)
Curriculum connections
Notes to teacher
Teaching and learning strategies
Assessment/evaluation strategies
Accommodation and enrichment strategies
Links to other activities
Suggestions for further research


This activity looks at the competition between agriculture and urban development for land around urban centres and the difficulties and advantages of farming close to urban areas. The pressure to build more housing in urban areas is strong, but such development takes some of Canada's best farmland out of production permanently. Should decisions on how this land is used be left solely to the market? Students will debate the issue.

Curriculum connections


  • identifies the human factors that affect food production
  • demonstrates an understanding of soil fertility and factors that affect it
  • demonstrates an understanding of how humans are part of the ecological system, and how human activity has long- and short-term effects on the natural environment
  • analyses ways in which agriculture depends on certain resources and the environmental, economic and social implications
  • explains ways to balance human needs and the protection of the natural system.

Family studies/home economics

  • identifies factors that affect food supply in Canada
  • investigates food-related issues
  • promotes understanding of the links between agriculture and the consumer
  • describes the effect of economics on food production and supply, and ultimately costs to consumers.


  • demonstrates an understanding of factors that influence the sustainability of the natural environment and evaluates their importance
  • explains why it is important to be aware of the impact of human activities on the natural environment
  • demonstrates an understanding of human impact on the environment, and assesses alternative courses of action to protect the environment.

Notes to teacher

This activity will be enhanced by having students compare the population density and soil quality on the maps provided with the article "They're tilling that field behind the mall," pages 17 to 26 in Canadian Agriculture at a Glance (PDF).

Teaching and learning strategies

  1. Students read the article "They're tilling that field behind the mall" pages 17 to 26 in Canadian Agriculture at a Glance (PDF).
  2. Students add terminology to their glossary.
  3. The teacher divides the class into groups in order to debate the issue, "Agricultural land around urban centres should be protected from urban encroachment. How does protecting or not protecting farmland affect farmers' ability to expand their operations or sell their land in order to retire?"
  4. Groups research on the Internet to better understand the issue.
  5. Each group prepares a two-minute opening and closing statement, as well as rebuttals to both sides of the argument.
  6. Students hand in a copy of their research and preparation notes to the teacher prior to the beginning of the debate.
  7. After the debates have concluded, each student writes an essay discussing the issue of urban encroachment.

Assessment/evaluation strategies

  1. Assess research and preparation notes for completeness.
  2. Evaluate the debate.
  3. Assess glossaries for accuracy and completion.

Accommodation and enrichment strategies

  1. Some students may require assistance in order to complete written work.
  2. Students with special needs may work with a partner to complete a task.
  3. Templates for note-taking should be provided to students with special needs.
  4. Main ideas and/or new information should be mapped out and organized to meet the needs of all students.
  5. Wherever possible, vocabulary lists should be provided with a discussion of context clues and related vocabulary.
  6. Students with special needs may wish to complete an oral, taped or video presentation rather than a written assignment.
  7. Groups may be predetermined in order to give all students a chance to succeed.
  8. For enrichment, students can research the competition for agricultural land in another country and the impact on the cost of land. Further, students can research immigration patterns of people from that country to Canada (for example, the cost of land in the Netherlands and increased immigration to Canada in the past half century).

Links to other activities

This activity is linked to:

Suggestions for further research

  • Students can use the population density and cultural geography maps for selected cities - found in the Map Archives section of the Atlas of Canada site ( - to enhance their presentation by showing the growth of urban areas over time.
  • Students can use 2001 Census of Agriculture data in E-STAT for data analysis, graphing and mapping activities for specific geographic areas of local interest.

Please send comments or examples of how you used this lesson in your class to Learning Resources.

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Date modified: 2008-05-20 Important Notices